Dangerous Lies

When I chose my latest read, I guess I needed a break from all the Christmasy stuff I’d been reading lately. That’s what I figure anyway. I honestly don’t know why I chose Dangerous Lies from all of the other books just sitting on my Kindle. Maybe because it seemed so far removed from anything mushy. Maybe because I liked author Becca Fitzpatrick’s Hush, Hush series. Maybe my finger slipped when I was trying to select something else. Who knows. Whatever the case, I finished reading Dangerous Lies late Friday night, and I’m bringing you a post on it today. Here goes…

Stella Gordon is living a lie. After witnessing a murder and landing herself in the cross-hairs of the vicious leader of a drug cartel, she’s whisked away to Thunder Basin, Nebraska, for a new life in the witness protection program.

Stella–formerly Estella Goodwinn–is forced to leave her identity, her friends, her boyfriend, her money, her addict mother, and her home in Philadelphia behind while she waits to testify against the man who killed her mom’s dealer. To say that she’s unhappy to be stuck in the middle of Nebraska for the duration would be a huge understatement.

While in Nebraska, Stella is living with Carmina, a former cop who expects Stella to live by a very strict set of rules. Stella, who’s been virtually on her own for years, balks at this and does whatever she can to get under Carmina’s skin. She’s planning on meeting up with her boyfriend (also in witness protection) at the end of the summer, so why bother doing what Carmina wants anyway? It’s her life.

Eventually, Stella tries to make the best of the situtation…while still planning to leave at summer’s end. She gets a job at a local diner, and she makes an unlikely friend in Chet Falconer, a local guy who draws Stella in and makes her realize that maybe Nebraska isn’t all bad. Stella, who is growing closer to Chet by the day, hates that nearly everything he knows about her is a lie, but she knows that telling him her secrets could put both of them in very real danger.

It seems, though, that danger is coming for Stella anyway. Early on, she makes an enemy of the town golden boy, a boy who seems oddly familiar, and that makes Stella a target once more. Does this guy have some connection to Stella’s former life? If so, what could that mean for her time in Nebraska? Just when Stella is getting comfortable in her new life, could her past–and her secrets–catch up with her?


I’m going to stop there (mainly because I can’t think of anything else to say).

Dangerous Lies is a mystery, thriller, and love story wrapped into one quick, gripping, easy-to-read package. While a tad predictable at times, it still kept me eager to turn the page, and it helped me escape reality for a while. (Given that it’s just days before winter break and I work in an elementary school full of excitable kids and exhausted adults, I need the escape.)

Here’s one huge thing Dangerous Lies has in its favor: This book features a girl who’s been forced into a horrible situation and still manages to stand up for herself and others. She doesn’t care that the town sports hero is never called on his crap. When he steps over the line, she calls him on it and works to make sure everyone else does the same. It may put a target on her back, but she continues to do the right thing anyway. That’s awesome.

I would probably recommend Dangerous Lies for upper middle grade readers and young adults. The book includes a fair amount of violence, some sexy times, underage alcohol use, and references to drugs. In my opinion, nothing is gratuitous, but use your best professional judgment when recommending this book to the tweens and teens in your circle.

To learn more about Dangerous Lies and other books by Becca Fitzpatrick, visit the author’s website. You can also connect with the author on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

A Million Ways Home

Last night, I finished one more of the 2016-17 South Carolina Children’s Book Award nominees, A Million Ways Home by Dianna Dorisi Winget. Those who know me can take one look at the book’s cover and figure out why I was a little hesitant to read this one.

That’s right. There’s a dog on the cover.

Well, I read the book anyway, and I have to admit that I’m glad I did. Though the dog plays a part in things, he’s not the major focus of the book. That honor goes to Poppy, a girl dealing with much more than any kid should be expected to handle.


After Poppy Parker’s grandmother suffers a stroke, the girl is sent to live in the North Shore Children’s Center. Poppy hates it here (with good reason), and she’s willing to do just about anything to reunite with her grandmother…even run away.

Poppy tries to make her way to the hospital to see Grandma Beth, but things quickly turn south. After a brief stop at a convenience store, Poppy becomes the sole witness to a horrible crime, an armed robbery and murder. The suspect knows her face and her name, so Poppy is placed under police protection, specifically in the home of Detective Trey Brannigan and his mother, Marti.

It doesn’t take long for Poppy to feel safe in this temporary home. She likes her caregivers, and she enjoys helping Marti at the animal shelter. She even manages to make a couple of friends–one human and one canine. Lizzie, the human, is a girl with troubles of her own. Gunner, the canine, is a beautiful German Shepherd who isn’t all that different from Lizzie. Both of them need someone to love them and be patient with them, and that person is Poppy.

Even with all these positives, though, Poppy longs for things to go back to the way they used to be. She wants her grandmother to get better. She wants to go back to their apartment and not have all these worries weighing on her. Surely, life can one day be normal again for Poppy and and her grandmother.

Unfortunately, things aren’t so simple. There’s still the matter of a dangerous criminal on the loose and looking for Poppy. Also, Grandma Beth isn’t recovering like Poppy hoped she would. Things are looking bleak, and Poppy doesn’t know what to do.

Will Poppy ever be able to return home? Will her grandmother get better? Will the police ever catch the guy putting Poppy in danger? And what will happen with Lizzie and Gunner?

Learn how Poppy navigates through the waters of uncertainty, friendship, grief, and love to find her way home when you read A Million Ways Home by Dianna Dorisi Winget.


A Million Ways Home is a quick, moving, and entertaining read that is sure to appeal to upper elementary and middle grade readers. Readers will empathize with Poppy and wonder what they would do if placed in similar situations.

If I had one complaint about the book, it would be that it is too “busy.” There’s already a lot going on in this book–Poppy’s reluctance to go back to the children’s center, her encounter with a criminal, Grandma Beth’s illness, Gunner’s fate, Lizzie’s problems, etc. Adding revelations about Poppy’s parents, Trey’s regrets, and even Lizzie’s issues with her dad, in my opinion, muddy the waters a bit and make the narrative confusing at times. I understand why the author included these details, but I didn’t feel like they contributed a great deal to the story as a whole. Just my two cents.

My issues aside, I do think my students will enjoy A Million Ways Home, and I’m happy it’s on next year’s SCCBA list. Now, I get to figure out how to sum up this book in a minute-long book trailer to help me with promoting it! (Check my library’s YouTube channel later to see what I come up with.)

For more information on A Million Ways Home and other books by Dianna Dorisi Winget, visit the author’s website.

Happy reading!